The Aureole Effect

Stephen R. Wilk

Examining an optical phenomenon that makes an observer look like an angel.

The aureole effectThe aureole effect surrounding the photographer’s shadow. [Willowpix/Getty Images]

In summer 2019, I took a lake cruise with my wife. Having done our “Jack and Rose” moment from Titanic at the prow, we were near the bow as the ship pulled in to a stop, and I looked down at the water. There, surrounding the shadow of my head, was a series of wavering, ever-changing “rays” that originated somewhere within my head’s shadow. These moved along with my shadow, always centered on it, and gave me an air of undeserved sanctity.

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